On WBUR: Boston’s Public Housing Goes Private: Why The City Is Teaming Up With Developers


Construction is ongoing during the second phase of the Orient Heights housing redevelopment project in East Boston. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Why Team Up With Private Companies?

A lack of federal funding has changed the way the BHA operates, says Kate Bennett, the agency’s senior deputy administrator for redevelopment projects.

“We will never see the kind of federal dollars we’ll need to transform those sites,” she says, referring to large developments like Bunker Hill, the system’s biggest. Bennett estimates the reconstruction project there will cost upwards of $1.5 billion.

So the BHA sought private developers and nonprofits to bankroll these construction projects, leveraging the value of the land to attract potential partners, Bennett says. Many cities across the country have adopted the same public/private approach, which is often called mixed-finance redevelopment.

The BHA has already redeveloped several properties this way, including Roxbury’s Orchard Gardens (formerly Orchard Park) and Washington Beech in Roslindale. In those examples, square brick buildings closed off from the rest of the neighborhood have been transformed into colorful apartments, crisscrossed by public streets.

Read the entire story as it originally appeared on WBUR here.